A few weeks ago I got up early one morning, turned on my GPS, stuck it in my pocket, and went about my business.
When I slumped back indoors sometime after dusk, barely able to stand upright, I had done exactly seven miles of business — all of them in the yard here.
It’s a big yard:
..for the silence, considerable even by my standards, but I’ve just been too busy, and too damned tired, to post.
Every day for weeks I’ve felt a nagging urge to down tools, head indoors and do my duty as a blogger. But the truth is, I’ve been having far too much fun. I love being outside, even with the labour…
..the apparent monotony of my routine, the strained muscles, tendonitis in both wrists (I have a wrist band I alternate between limbs), etc.
And I tell myself I’ll do it in the evening after dinner, but it’s far more fun to collapse into a chair next to Kate, watch something on the laptop and relax with a bottle of $5 wine than face the tyranny of the blog and the endless picture editing. We make a fine pair, dozing off in our chairs, Kate nursing a cat in her lap, me cradling a glass of red.
We’re saving for a pair of rocking chairs and a fireplace.
BACK IN THE USA
So anyway, the “here” in the second sentence is here with Kate in Upstate New York:
I’ve been back a month and a bit, I think — time is vague and kinda wispy. Every day is the same, but in a good way.
The flights here from Brisbane were tolerable, and when I left Australia I had around 500 pictures from Moreton Island to sift through, discard, or keep and edit. In LAX, the Worst Place on Earth, I plugged in and killed a couple of hours with the pictures. Did an hour’s worth on the next leg, and some more in Atlanta.
On the final leg I started again but the two seats next to me were vacant, which is as good as flying gets for me. I surrendered to the temptation of the semi-recline and woke up as we were descending to Albany.
Kate was very relieved to see me: the half-drowned passport, the worries about surly Customs folk and all my recent coming and going. But I’m in, again…
..another couple of grand poorer, and yes — the Moreton pictures, reduced to 300 or so, are done.
MY FAVOURITE PLACE ON EARTH
..and if the
bugging blog, blogging bug bites tenaciously enough, I’ll soon be rewarding you and amazing myself by sharing a few thoughts and images.
I had the luxury of almost four days and three nights, so I could take any detour, and any pictures, I liked — hence that ridiculous tally. I logged the walk on the GPS and confirmed that my estimate of 100km/60 miles for a full circuit of the isle via beaches was spot on.
The days were grand and my spirits never sunk despite three…
..due to, alternately, a thunderstorm, ferocious ocean winds, and cold.
In all I slept only four or five hours on the whole trip, those minor inconveniences rendered intolerable by makeshift gear — all my good stuff (tarp, bag, fleece etc) being inconveniently America-bound in cardboard boxes (it’s due to be delivered this Friday).
I didn’t care, just spent most of each night longing for the streak of pre-dawn on the horizon. But in my whole life, I’ve had a lot more crappy sleeps than good ones; insomnia comes easy-ish for me, though it does make me dread night sometimes.
What’s weird is that all the hard work I’ve done since getting back to Saratoga has made no difference whatsoever. I have had perhaps two nights in over a month when I made it to 5:00 or so without waking, getting up, eating first breakfast at 3:30 or downing a medicinal goblet of Crane Lake pinot noir to dull the nerve endings a tad.
I hate the night.
I believe the problem now is mental over-stimulation. All my life I’ve had a project or two…
..keeping me going to avoid toppling into the abyss, and it’s always been very hard to turn off the relevant parts of my over-engaged brain when the lights go out.
Even if I’m physically wrecked. As I always am.
And this is an excellent project: turning…
YARD INTO GARDEN
I was a gardener before I was a hiker. My first garden project was in a Brisbane rented house in 1993, after returning from a few months living in a car in America, my first trip there/here (what is this, number 8 or 9?). I just started and couldn’t stop.
The Roma tomatoes were abundant and the corn was roof-high. I was cursed with immediate success and I continued after moving back to Sydney — always in rented houses, always without the landlord’s permission. Sometime around 1995 I got a permaculture design certificate. I breathed plants and gardens, I dreamed them at night — or thought about them, since I usually wasn’t sleeping.
A few years in Tokyo, the world’s biggest human monoculture, ended that phase — but that was where I discovered mountains and walking and disappearing by myself in beautiful places. Now I realise that walking, gardening — and even photography — are all linked and complement each other perfectly.
I’ve mentioned Kate’s excellently sized yard before — but save for my brief visit in the Summer of 2013 (when I was made aware of its numerous shortcomings) I’d known it mostly as a snow-blanketed wasteland:
Right before I left for Brisbane last time, after all that snow and cold, and all those blog posts about walking dreary roadsides in snow and cold (from Feb 25 till April 15, I logged 264.25 miles, or an average of 5.285 miles per day, most of it on weekday road walks), or snowshoeing up cold, snow-covered mountains, we were struck by an earth-shattering…
..and suddenly the urge surged through me again, the one I thought was buried deeper than the bulbs and paving stones and bramble bushes I didn’t even know we had.
We got started on garden building…
..and then it snowed again, right before I left, which was discouraging:
A couple of weeks later I was back, with a vague plan. Tools and plants…
..and a few materials were purchased — though most of the latter have been unearthed on site.
The plans have evolved and Kate’s been witness to numerous moments of scary epiphany: whoa, more work. My problem is gardens for me are as much artwork as food factory. Hence the endless fun…
The whole neighbourhood has a nicer vibe of late:
It’s usually quiet, except for the birdsong, the kids playing in the street — and the lawnmowers. Walkers and cyclists pass, glancing in at the evolving project. In Winter I felt like the resident oddball, wandering the streets alone while the pick-ups and SUVs roared past. Now, ironically, with the glorious weather and all the exercising going on, I’m too busy to walk anywhere.
I’ll talk about the garden in more detail, perhaps a lot more detail, later, but here are a few shots to give you an idea:
Somehow, numbed by all the straight 12-hour days of rock-rolling, planting, weeding, digging, fence-making and crude paving I’ve been doing while Kate and the girls are at school, I hardly noticed the entrance stage left of…
..bringing a few 30+ C days and, tonight, a very nice thunderstorm (saves me some watering, and the thunder scares the squirrels).
12:57am and the thunder’s still cracking — and the ceiling fan still spinning.
Meanwhile, I’ve found time to get interested in the…
BIRDS & BEES
..which are endlessly fascinating, with all the new species and calls and habits to learn.
We have a couple of birdhouses now…
..one inhabited, and a few feeders — if the local squirrel doesn’t make off with them (I caught the bastard lugging one across the lawn in the direction of its oak tree this morning — this after subjecting it to a brutal garden-hosing the other day).
There’s also a resident bunny I’m watching with dread as the salad greens grow.
Kate is a lifelong bird-phobic, so it’s been a journey for her as well. Luckily she loves hummingbirds (“They’re more like insects”) so we’ll be trying to attract lots of them. Offhand the regulars I’m able to identify have included chickadees, house wrens, robins, catbirds, cardinals, woodpeckers — and Canada geese that go honking and yelping overhead a few times each day, usually in pairs, painting the sky with a vivid streak of northern drama and wildness.
Bees? They’re largely of the bumble variety so far…
..and we can’t wait to see the whole insect community move in as the flowers take off.
Speaking of bumblebees, there were plenty hard at work when we recently went…
BACK TO THE LAND
..to visit our friends Chris and Aaren at Wing Road Farm for breakfast and haircuts (Kate is in high demand as a cutter of late; it’s all practice).
As always, their place was immaculate and lovely..
..and it’s an exciting time for them with the imminent arrival of their first child, a boy and possibly even a Cancerian, which are two admirable qualities that have served yours truly well.
Meanwhile, our mutual friends & relatives The Dude (Kate’s brother) & Trouble — at whose wedding I met Kate — are…
WALKING NORTH AGAIN
..this time on the Continental Divide Trail, shadowing the Rockies between the Mexican and Canadian borders.
Here they are the last time we saw them, right before they split for New Mexico:
They’re over 400 miles in, having a blast — and dealing with desert heat and an unfair quota of foot trouble. I don’t think Kate M (Trouble — there are a lot of Kates in this part of the world) will mind me mentioning that she’s been having a rough time lately following her mother’s passing, so it’s very much a journey of healing as well as blister formation and the drinking of green water with cow dung floating in it from some very nasty water sources…
Which brings me to…
..of which we’ve done none since I got back!
I still have several walks from Winter un-blogged…
..so who knows?
Meanwhile, as I mentioned, most of my walking has been taking place here in this enormous outer-suburban yard, usually while carrying a boulder or a mattock or a log.
Our weekends have been spent right here in the yard, working together…
..and generally having a great time amid some beautiful weather.
We’re content, and we’re also pretty damned poor. Right now we can’t afford the gas to drive to the danged mountains. They’ll keep.
..your guess is as good as mine.
Hopefully this (way over-long) post will get me re-inspired, and I’ll find a way to accommodate the recording of a very fulfilling life with the living-of-it part. I will definitely be doing a few Moreton posts, and Sandgate…
..where my father (with help from my brother) is building yet another boat in the backyard as his 80th birthday approaches…
..deserves some column space as well.
But a blog is an organic thing, if it’s any good, and I confidently predict that future incarnations of this one will delve more than a little into our ongoing garden project. To my horror, I suspect I may also veer into bird-feeder blog territory as well!
Must be getting old — I’ll be 50 in a few weeks…
Meanwhile, we have a lot of stuff to work out, as always, red tape to negotiate and money-we-don’t-have to spend, but all is looking good.
It’s 3:04am, time I got to bed.
How’s it been going with you?
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote